Thursday, October 11, 2007

Genealogy and History Thoughts - Column Four

"How did you get involved in genealogy?" I have been asked that question a couple of times. The short and simple answer would be that I had an interest in history and that led to wanting to find out the history of my family; however, over the past several days, I have reflected upon how I got into genealogy, and I realized that the full answer to that question was more much complex than the answer I usually give to other people.

Ever since I was a young child, I had an interest in history. At the age of five, I knew that I had grandfathers who were World War Two veterans. How did I know? My parents told me, even though I don't remember now exactly when they told me so. In addition, my grandfather began to tell me stories about our family's history around the time I was five. My grandparents also had a family tree that they showed to me as a young child. In addition I knew that my grandpa was a history buff. Of course I highly doubt that my grandparents knew that this exposure would have an impact on me, but either way, I believe that hearing stories about my family unconsciously influenced my interest in history.

I don't remember now if the history lessons in elementary school also added to my interest in history because I only remember history lessons being taught in class from the fifth grade and up. Before the fifth grade, I think the lessons were more social studies than history. Either way, I think the elementary lessons only had a small influence over me because by the time I entered the fifth grade, I was already reading about history on my own, and I know that my own personal reading had more of an influence on whether I would find history interesting or not. One the first eras of history that I had an interest in as a child was in World War Two, and that was probably as a result of knowing that my grandfathers had served in that war. At the same time, though, this interest wasn't consciously on my mind. What I mean is that, I wasn't actively thinking about the stories I heard when I decided to open a textbook and read the few paragraphs or pages on a historical topic. It was much more subtle.

Well, that is probably the most in depth reason that I have ever given on how I became interested in history and genealogy. How about you? How did you get interested in genealogy? I would love to hear other people's stories. Please feel free to either respond by a comment or a post on your blog. I look forward to hearing what others have to say.


Terry Thornton said...

"How did I get involved in genealogy?"

Jessica has posed an interesting question and one I hope several will answer and share their thoughts here. I, too, am interested in what brings others to this quest for heritage, for ancestors, and for who beget whom where and when.

Until Jessica asked the question, I don't think I've ever done any introspection to consider why I'm involved in this genealogy quest. I came to it late in life --- when I realized that my larger Thornton family knew little of their immediate past [or as I discovered later, at one time they knew; they just were not talking choosing to say, Shhhhh, let's not talk about this].

Finding all those Yankees in the Alabama closet just sharpened my appetite for information.

But as I found the who born, who educated, who married, who died, who buried etc etc and cataloged that information, the larger issues of the regional and national history became more important than a narrow view into tracing one surname.

And the more I studied, the more I became interested in the biological, sociological, and psychological issues at play in shaping decisions in the past. This broader view of history couples well with a narrow genealogical view of one specific family to allow for those fun speculations of "Aha! This is why g-g-g-grandpa went to Texas!"

So thanks, Jessica, for posing this question of "How did I get involved in genealogy?" I think I came here looking for immediate answers to WHO AM I? and got hooked into trying to answer WHY AM I?

It has been an interesting search.
Terry Thornton

Anonymous said...

I think I was 10 years old when my grandmother handed me a 3-inch-thick red binder full of information about her side of the family from the time they came from England in the late 1700s. Naturally, as a teenager and a relatively nomadic adult, I lost the binder, but the bits and pieces of what I remember spending hours leafing through the pages has helped shape almost all my hunches about her genealogy.

Also, hearing the anecdotal "family facts" (being descended from Native Americans [not proven yet] and being descended from Henry VIII [again, not proven]) has spurred interest in trying to prove these. And the little family secrets (hmmm... she was already six months pregnant when she married him... I wonder how that when over in the 1920s?) always makes it more colorful than just dates and places.